Editing Strategy: Who Did What?

When writers answer the second part of the question (Who did WHAT?), their sentences become plugged in. Alive.  Good ways to activate sentences are to (1) use strong, present tense action verbs whenever possible and (2) use real verbs instead of verbs in disguise. In the sentence She is working, the writer can shorten the verb to a more active form.  Thus, She works is leaner.

Some verbs show no action, though; instead they indicate a state of being or existence.  Verbs of being are am, is, are, was, were, be, and being.   These tiny words are often burdened by carrying the entire weight of ponderous sentences.  Replace verbs of being with action verbs, when feasible.

Here is a not-so-perfect sample, crying to be edited.  Has a comparison of costs been made?  Ask the first question WHO DID WHAT?  No one.  Let’s make it our Vice-President, Marjorie Dunbar.

Notice what happens as soon as an actor is added to the sentence.  The writer is almost forced to change the noun comparison into the action verb compare.  So–the edited sentence reads:  Has Marjorie Dunbar compared costs?

Comments are closed.